Travel Thursday: Lucerne, Sailboats and Swans

LOVELY Lucerne was the third stop on our trip.  The first half of our stay in Lucerne included exploring the waterfront city’s iconic bridge, giddily getting a room in the historic Hotel de Alpes with a view of said bridge, and pounding lots of pavement.  Our walking took us up to an old fort in the city with some questionable staircases, which we were happy to tackle once we got to the top of the towers and saw the postcard (truly, could’ve been on postcards!) views of the lake.  As is always my mission on trips, we eventually got on a boat and took a guided tour of the lake – the water is so blue and so clear, the swans (swans! not ducks – such a fairy tale) looked like they simply hovered over the lake bed.  Very neat.

 

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These are all views from our room! Ta-dah.

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Note the distinct lack of trash in their water, too.  No litterbugs here.

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Travel Thursday

We kicked off the Swiss portion of our trip last September (the main destination) in Zurich.  You guys, Switzerland is for me – trains, things are impeccably on time, everything is clean, and everything seemed gracefully laid out.  Zurich was a beautiful mix of old streetscapes and modern buildings, whimsy (snails and parrots over doorways) and efficiency (mass transit options!), and was full of cheeses, chocolate and wine!  I knew I was in my element when a Toblerone bar was waiting for me on my pillow…

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Travel Thursday

Whoa, photos!  Photos from our two-days in Paris last fall are here for your viewing pleasure.  Being just about the only non-stop international flight one can get out of CVG anymore, Paris was the first stop on our trip.  And, being a holiday weekend, there were lots of familiar faces on the flight (because who doesn’t want to peep on what your work acquaintances selected for their in-flight movie and to show off your best I woke up like this hairdo after an overnight flight?).  Paris was also the first time we’d used AirBnB – and it was a huge success!  The apartment was lovely, off the beaten path, and our host left us a list of hard to find rooftop bars where we stood out like the tourists we were (hard not to do in rain jackets).  Our trip was after the first train attacks but the mood was still pretty easygoing at that point over there.  We didn’t feel any much Parisian snootiness and managed to avoid the con artists at all of the big sites, and we didn’t even get pickpocketed!  One of my irrational fears, naturally.

I fell in love with Europe’s doors, and this is one from the neighborhood of our AirBnB (and some other photos of the neighborhood):

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View from our place:

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Sticking out on the rooftop bar.

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^Not really sure what was going on here, but in pidgin French he understood they wanted a photo.  Bachelorette party, perhaps?  They were rocking 80’s fabulous costumes.

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I was very happy with my breakfast options!  I couldn’t order the quiche, though, because I didn’t know how to ask for a fork…this place was not used to dealing with tourists silly Americans.

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And then we were off to Zurich!

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Out and about on The Galaxie

One of my goals on our trip was to get on a boat – not a packed, double-stacked booze cruise with a sweaty life jacket strapped on, but something more along the lines of a private, leisurely, even a classy, cruise.  This seemed like a very high mark to aim for, but that was my goal.

Nearing the end of the trip and having so far not had an opportunity to test out our sea legs, I started fretting.  The resort staff stared at me blankly when I declined their overpriced booze/snorkel adventure combo that left on the hour from the beach, and then forgot their English skills when I asked for off-resort recommendations.  Foiled, I figured I’d have to help myself and navigate TripAdvisor.  I wasn’t prepared for the mind numbingly slow lobby wifi, so I grabbed a screenshot of what I could and went to use my room phone.  Foiled again by the exorbitantly high phone rates, I squeaked out a few super quick calls on our cell phone, only to find out most of the local boat operations held salon hours and were closed on Mondays.

A captain answered on my last ditch call.  We ended up exchanging a few texts confirming he could take us a private sunset cruise.  With wine. And Italian snacks.  We’d need every last bit of cash we had (a mix of dollars and guilders) but we were going to make it work.  That afternoon we piled into the fanciest taxi we’d seen so far and gave him the marina address.  We pulled into the drive of what looked like a house with a naked man showering in the side yard.  This was about the time we all got super concerned about my decision and the taxi driver asked us again to confirm we were in the right place, so he didn’t leave us stranded.  This was also about the time I realized I’d neglected to bring any other details with me about our upcoming boat adventure – not the name of the boat, slip number, name of the captain…nothing.  We were also there 30 minutes before our agreed upon departure time, and the place was deserted.  Actually, there was one Dutchman who wandered out eventually and asked who we were waiting for.  We told him we honestly didn’t know, and he wished us luck and wandered off.  And, of course, on account of the pack of ferocious guard dogs and swarms of thousands of chickamunguya-carrying mosquitoes, we weren’t really alone.  This was a low point on the trip.

However, I was gloriously vindicated when our boat, The Galaxie, eventually arrived full of repeat passengers who were yelling to us about what a wonderful time we would be having before the boat even got fully tied to the dock. In short, The Galaxie was captained by Matteo, an Italian marine physicist (“boat designer”) with a penchant for sharing his views on the politics of the region, why of all the Caribbean islands he chose to call Curacao his new home (“it is the best-very European”), and why his boat was named The Galaxie (“it was already named, why change it?”).  Ask me sometime to share Matteo’s thoughts on the similarities of the women on the island with cars and hermit crabs with their shells.

Here are photos of our private, relaxed, sunset cruise with Matteo – including too many of the sunset and of my handsome Husband:

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Guard dog #1

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Guard dog #2

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Strip mining. Matteo had lots of comments.

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Can we talk about this water?

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Can we also talk about this beauty?

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Husband the Explorer

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The best beer and freshest food we’d seen all week. “Italian snacks” really meant hummus and bruschetta – the best bruschetta with the freshest tomatoes. Yum.

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Here’s Husband the Thinker, pondering with us over whether or not the photo below shows T. Swift’s vacation home.  See the swan float?  And the LOVE artwork?

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Husband the Hero (with bottle opener)

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When you have to leave the resort…

We were at a “highly adequate” (our favorite Trip Advisor quote) all-inclusive resort in Curacao, but there came a time when we could no longer look at a buffet table or plastic pina colada glass.  When that time came, we counted up our guilders, risked a taxi ride, and happily headed into the town of Willemstad.

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Willemstad is really as lovely as the local tourism board’s Instagram feed makes it out to be.  The architecture is water-colored and you can’t help but stumble over historical markers.  Another big draw for us was Curacao’s shipping traffic…really!  There were crazy cargo, shipping, and tanker ships on the horizon nearly at all times, and lots of them in the waterways of St. Anna Bay in Willemstad.  We got up close and personal with them, especially when we took their fancy floating bridge, the Queen Emma Bridge.  Instead of letting ships pass underneath it, the bridge rests on what look like old boat hulls and is on a motorized hinge – it simply swings out of the way to let ships past.  Tourists and locals alike use the bridge (or the back-up ferry, when the bridge is open) constantly.

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We were chatting about the crazy trade wind gusts on the island with our cab driver when he mockingly asked us why we wore hats if they would just blow off…Husband wisely cracked that though there was wind there was also sun – pick your poison.  We stuck with our hats.

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After we survived the wind at the top of the fort, we made our way to the floating market.  Being at the closest point some 30 odd miles off the coast of Venezuela, Venezuelan farmers bring their fruits and vegetables to sell on the island.  This is a good gig since Curacao is a desert and nothing much grows there.  The farmers spend several hours boating to Curacao through the night, sell straight from their boats, and sleep in on-board hammocks.  Findlay Market has nothing on these guys.

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Contact

Hello! Reach me at admin(at)grayspeek.com
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